Risky Business: Cultivating a Courageous Institutional Culture
Friday, November 10, 2017 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Venue: Frick

At the Hirshhorn Museum of Art and Sculpture Garden (HMSG), Director Melissa Chiu and the Smithsonian have discovered that connecting with today’s visitors means being agile, forward-thinking, and representing ideas as well as objects. In this environment, the HMSG team was challenged with producing the Museum’s first-ever audio guide in just over two months. And it didn’t just need to launch on time, but it also needed to make contemporary, conceptual artworks more accessible. Samir Bitar and Antenna used Discovery workshops to quickly unite stakeholders on a single, confident vision. We interviewed staff across the museum from the Director to the Security Guards in order to understand how best to connect visitors to these sometimes very challenging artworks. A diversity of approaches and audio interviews gave us some safety-nets in our risk-taking, and in the end, created a compelling and surprising tour for visitors.

Over the last decade, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art has made strides toward creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all visitors. The recent reinstallation of the Bloch Galleries provided a opportunity to boldly integrate interpretative materials into the European collection. Building upon previous success and establishing relationships of trust (both within and outside the institution) allowed the team to foray into new territory, including playful in-gallery interactives and new immersive audio content, created in collaboration with Antenna International. This process was not without its challenges. It required wrangling multiple outside companies, assuaging the concerns of colleagues, and engendering comfort with an iterative approach to content development. In undertaking this effort, the institution gained more than just a state-of-the-art gallery: it achieved a greater comfort with risk-taking.

Panelists will share the new kinds of work processes, including discovery and storytelling workshops and related techniques, which allowed us to script more diverse kinds of audio content, aligning with its artwork. We realized that: because the artwork was different, the audio should be too!

You’ll learn what worked and what didn’t, and will come away with effective strategies to build trust and buy-in from internal stakeholders so that you can take more risks in your interpretive materials.


Type of Session
60-Minute Professional Session
Session Leader : Melissa Mair, Senior Interpretive Planner, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Co-Presenter : Christine Murray, Sr. Creative Strategist & Executive Producer, Antenna International
Co-Presenter : Adrienne Lalli Hills, Senior Interpretive Planner, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Co-Presenter : Nina Callaway, Content Designer, Antenna International
Co-Presenter : Samir Bitar, Director of the Office of Visitor Services, Smithsonian